Posts Tagged ‘Marin County’

Lessons in Composition From “Monet: The Early Years” and “Monet: The Late Years” at De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco Art Museums

December 3rd, 2020

Art Show Review: Lessons in Composition

From “Monet: The Early Years” and “Monet: The Late Years”

De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco Art Museums

Are You Rehashing Reductive Rules?

Indian Rhubarb and Reflections, Spanish Creek, Fall, Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click 3X to enlarge.) A few people have said this photograph looks like a Monet painting. I do not make photographs to look like paintings intentionally, but if one does, so be it. I like abstract subjects and photograph them whenever possible. Paul Strand’s straight negatives were not altered in any way, but many of them were abstract and their subjects unrecognizable, though they were straight out of the camera.

Everything you have learned about composition is wrong. Most “tips” in workshops and on photoblogs are either purposely or by default overly simplistic, unnecessary and even melodramatic as presented by some teachers today. Many of the “secrets” like “never split the frame with a vertical” or “with the horizon,” “use leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye into the image” and so on, are reductive and often broken by the masters of painting, photography and other visual arts.

Today a painter or photographer starting out may turn to books or more often magazines or blogs to learn craft and technique. Contemporary art publications, online schools and forums, especially in landscape photography, teach composition as a series of logical, “left-brain” methods and techniques. They discuss the merits and limitations of the rule of thirds and drop nuggets of wisdom about foreground interest, emphasizing the subject, eliminating non-essential distractions, sweeping the edges of the frame, simplifying the image, filling the frame, finding background contrast and on and on. Some blogs have devoted large portions of content to discussions on how well participants have applied these techniques to various example photographs. Others get into dissecting and analyzing “composition conundrums faced by landscape photographers,” as one popular blog post said.

All of these serve a purpose and act as a starting point, providing some value in the early stages of learning photography. Beyond that however, if you pack all of this stuff, rattling around in your mind, out into the field and consciously attempt to apply it while making images, it will be like hauling a backpack full of rocks. It will provide little in the way of nourishment or comfort, will slow you down and more often than not result in dead, unimaginative photographs.

Many teachers today, besides presenting formulaic material, follow each other around to the same locations that have been on the landscape photography bucket list for generations. Fifty to seventy years ago, many of these scenes were fresh, but today most landscape photographers are missing one of the obviously lesser known fundamentals of seeing: great art is not necessarily about the subject. The pervasive mentality is that to make a name in landscape photography you must pursue certain views and certain types of scenes. This often sends new camera owners on a far-flung tour, with little thought other than, “I can do it too, or maybe even better if I am lucky to have dramatic light or weather.” Some photographers get hooked on travel and years later are still jet setting all over the world, when they could just as easily find great photographs closer to home, use less petroleum and develop a deeper connection to the culture and land. No wonder most of what we see online and across the industry is starting to look the same.

Throughout the history of art, examples abound of the greatest works breaking the rules of composition, while at the same time maintaining a sense of equilibrium and balance or dynamic off-balance that grabs the viewer’s attention and holds it. Which brings us to the next logical question: How did the masters learn to make successful art without enslaving themselves to rote techniques and guidelines? There are probably as many possible answers as artists, though there are also common patterns among renowned artists.

Straight Photography, Pictorialism and Photography as an Art

Abstraction, Porch Shadow, 1915 by Paul Strand. Paul Strand’s negatives were straight, not post-processed in any way, but many were abstract and their subjects unrecognizable. (Click Twice to See Large)

Like today, in the early 20th Century, until about 1930, clichés proliferated. Technique and gimmick-heavy Pictorialism ruled the day because many thought making photographs look otherworldly, unreal or like paintings was the best way to get photography recognized as an art. It did not work then and is still questionable now. What did more than anything else to establish photography as a fine art was the crisp, fresh, precision craft only possible with a camera, as made by Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and many of their students and kindred spirits such as my father, William Garnett, Brett Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Minor White, Dick Arentz, Al Weber, Dave Bohne and those still living from the same lineage such as John Sexton, Bob Kolbrenner, Jack Dykinga, Charles Cramer, Carr Clifton and a few others.

During the heyday of straight photography, galleries, museums, auction houses and the art establishment had the most interest in photography. Today, the exposure of landscape photography is expanding in certain types of magazines and in tourist galleries in some of the world’s most popular destinations, but the art establishment has left behind contemporary landscapes, especially in color. Galleries, museums and other fine art venues look down on the genre with disdain. This does not have to be.

Attempting to attain dynamic balance in your work through following someone else’s tips, will mainly bring derivative results, whereas through ongoing immersion in a variety of genres and by studying the masters in many disciplines, you can develop an innate sense of what works and what does not. There are no shortcuts to mastery in art and no short list of 10 secrets will take you where in-depth study can. When Ansel Adams founded the world’s first college level photography program to teach creative photography as a profession at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute, he and lead instructor Minor White and the other organizers required students to take a well-rounded set of electives from many of the other art departments at the school including music, ceramics, sculpture and others.

My father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde, applied to the program and at first his application was misplaced and delayed a year. In response, another mentor and guest lecturer at CSFA, Edward Weston, suggested that since Dad had the G.I. Bill paying his tuition anyway, he might as well take some elective art classes at UC Berkeley while he was waiting to start photography school. Dad signed up for Interior Design, painting and calligraphy. His professor for calligraphy turned out to be the eminent Japanese painter Chiura Obata, who had recently been released from the World War II Japanese concentration camp at Manzanar on the East Side of the Sierra. Learning from Obata turned out to be an unforgettable experience that deeply influenced the way Dad saw any given subject. Through the example and influence of his mentors, both at UC Berkeley and CSFA, Dad became a student of a wide range of types of art. Dad often explained to his students in turn that Ansel Adams and Minor White hardly talked about composition, at least not in terms of quantified rules, but in the context of the relationships, forms and arrangements found in many forms of art and photography.

Before Impressionism Became Impressionism

The great Impressionist Claude Monet broke more of the rules of composition more often than almost anyone else, while producing a completely new kind of art that still soothes, calms and delights the world. During his early career, when he struggled to keep his family from starving, Monet had already begun to make the innovations that would shake up the art establishment.

Monet enjoyed early success when the Paris Salón accepted his first submission, but many rejections followed. He had to rely on his parents and others to survive, while despite his clear mastery of technique, critics labeled him and the group of painters he associated with revolutionaries and troublemakers. In time he would reinvent how textures were applied, develop new brush styles, specialize in portraying the effects of light like no other painter before him and play a central role in the development of Impressionism.

Monet’s departures from tradition were vividly evident in two contemporary exhibitions of his paintings that toured before the Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic began. “Monet: The Early Years” and “Monet: The Late Years,” curated by George T.M. Shackelford of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and originated there in partnership with San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums. Both shows toured nationally and made a stop in San Francisco at the De Young Legion of Honor Museum.

Fountain and Sunburst, de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click Twice to See Large)

My friend Ronald Schmidt and I saw “Monet: The Early Years” at the Legion of Honor. Mr. Schmidt was my 8th Grade English teacher, but moved to San Francisco years ago and became a member of many of the best museums. He invited me to see both Monet shows, but because unfortunately I never made it to see “Monet: The Late Years,” I will refer to online and book reproductions of the paintings. These paintings from Monet’s later career will also be the most accessible in some ways, though most dramatically break the mold of earlier art. Having pored over art books as a boy and become partial to the Impressionists, I was most enthused to see “Monet: The Early Years,” because while both shows promised to include paintings I had not seen before, the first exhibition would tell the story of how the French master got started.

The Legion of Honor Museum: American Home of Great European Art

Winding up through the neighborhoods and trees to see the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum shining bright white in the afternoon sun atop the highest point in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park, made for a dramatic buildup to the show. The Legion of Honor grounds offer sweeping views of the city, the Marin Headlands across San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Arriving at the parking lot, we stepped out of the car and stared at the light patterns on the water of the aquamarine pool and glinting off the spray of the fountain, which danced in the late sunlight. After a long moment, I reached back into the car, grabbed my camera and started making images. I photographed the entrance gate with striking shadows, acting as a portal for people with illuminated halos. Moving into the courtyard I captured a few couples in various poses, caught details of columns and shadows, but once inside there were only stark white walls until we reached the entrance to the Monet Exhibit on the main floor.

Front Gate From Front Door, De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

The Legion of Honor is a smaller replica of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The grounds, courtyard and interior of the Legion of Honor are permanent home to over 70 Rodin statues. As you walk up toward the front gate, you enter another world far away from the bustle of the surrounding city. Architect George Applegarth’s massive columns support a colonnade that surrounds the courtyard. Just inside the front gate, you are greeted by one of the original casts of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Behind this powerful statue rises a low glass pyramid, reminiscent of I.M. Pei’s installation at the Louvre. See also Greatest Hits of European Art on the Hills of San Francisco. Once inside the museum, you find yourself in a large central space with galleries extending in all four directions. The Legion of Honor is the perfect setting for two exhibitions of one of Europe’s most celebrated Impressionists.

At the entrance of “Monet: The Early Years,” my friend Ron and I were greeted initially by a large wall text. The first painting could be seen beyond the wall text. The text ran from ceiling down to the floor, all in white block letters on a white background:

INTRODUCTION

Before his success, before there was even the term “Impressionism,” Claude Monet labored to define his style and promote himself as an artist. Two forces drove him: his will to be a painter and his desire to become critically and commercially successful. During his early career, Monet struggled to provide food and shelter for himself and his family while creating innovations that would turn the art world upside down.

Just past this text wall, one of Monet’s most ambitious early paintings, “Luncheon on the Grass,” dominated another large wall straight ahead. The label identified it as, “Claude Monet, ‘Luncheon on the Grass, Central Panel’, 1865–66. Oil on canvas, 97 X 85 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris” It was too large to contain in a photograph, but I had already tucked my camera away anyway, so as not to be distracted from viewing the paintings while inside the show. The picnic scene splashed across the whole wall and looked almost as though you could walk into it, with bright figures as large and vivid as life sitting in front of a dark, primeval forest. The figure of Monet’s first wife, Camille, who appears more than any other character in Monet’s early paintings, in “Luncheon on the Grass” gestures toward the viewer with an empty plate, as if to invite us to sit down and join the group enjoying their wine and refreshments.

Monet Effortlessly Broke the Rules of Composition and Worked Hard to Capture the Light and Mood

Luncheon on the Grass, 1865-1866, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

The first three or four paintings were innovations in breaking the rules of composition, as it turns out so also were most of the works in the exhibition. More panels told the stories of Monet’s early painting life. Camille and the other figures in the various paintings were revealed not by detail, but by Monet’s stunning observation of detail and light, as well as a stark precision of emotion and feeling. Even though Monet’s painting style left out many details, the mood and time of day in the scenes gleamed in whites and other suggested, subtle textures. Because the shapes, colors and subjects stood out well and captured the eye, the arrangements of the figures and other subjects could be random, unusual and striking.

In ‘Luncheon on the Grass,’ it is almost as though Monet shifted the frame up and to the left. Part of this shifting and imbalance of the whole composition was exacerbated by the fact that this was only the central panel of the painting, the others having mildewed in Monet’s landlord’s basement while being held as collateral for rent, but the composition would have been skewed anyway. We see only part of the dress and arm of one lady on the left, while large areas of white space and extra forest greenery open up on the right. The picnic blanket is cut off at the bottom, but yet the open, less defined forest soars far above the heads of the figures at the top.

Beach at Trouville, 1870, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

“The Beach at Trouville” cuts off interesting right side features such as the stairways and buildings in favor of showing more of the open beach, ocean and the expanse of sky, which is the largest feature of the piece. In the painting, ‘Hyde Park,’ Monet slices off a quarter of his right side tree, while including significant open space to the right of the vista. If anything, rather than creating dynamic balance and following the rules of composition, in much of his early work, Monet purposely built his images out of symmetry, but not out of balance or equilibrium. His interest seems to be in disrupting our sensibilities, not in working with them.

Monet, perhaps better than any other artist ever, mastered the portrayal of mood in settings and people. Besides choosing lighter or darker tones, his ability to see and capture the effects of light on objects and scenes and his use of great expanses of sky, though often detrimental to perfect composition, enabled him to visually show the feeling of any given place. In this sense, form, subject and the arrangement of objects within the frame, were subordinate to and less important than the emotions he wanted to elicit. Examples abound in his early and late work.

Hyde Park, 1871, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

In the paintings exhibited in “Monet: The Early Years,” for example, we can compare the somber hues in “Hyde Park” to the bright, white dominated, yet also colorful scene in “The Beach at Trouville.”

Monet also used composition to indicate what was important in a painting. For example, in “The Cradle” the baby and cradle occupied the center and were depicted in bright, colorful and white tones, while Camille sitting at the baby’s side was only a little over halfway in the frame and outlined in dark olives, grays and blacks.

The Green Wave, 1866, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

In “The Green Wave,” the top third of the mast and sails of the sailboat are out of the frame. Very little space is allowed for a large sailing ship in the distance and another boat also sailing on the same Green Wave. On the other hand, a large, open space of the ocean in the foreground dominates the painting. The sailboats are not the subject of the piece, the ocean and the wave are. Cutting off the top of the sailboat and devoting over one third of the entire painting to the nearly unvaried green wave also make the creations of man small in the face of nature, another theme of the painting. “La Grenouillére,” on the surface is a painting of the lively swimming hole on the Seine in Paris. The exhibition text explained the painting:

La Grenouillére, 1869, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

“Monet’s “La Grenouillére,” portraying a popular bathing spot on the Seine, carefully captured in color brushstrokes the effects of light, rendering a feeling of pleasure. The men and women sit leisurely at the café, converse under the central tree, partake in swimming, and prepare for a boat ride out on the sun-drenched water. Yet the true subject of this painting is perhaps the river itself. While the activity of the figures is evoked through quick, energetic dashes of the brush, Monet lavished attention on the water, its multiple colors, its reflections, and its depths.”

Monet continued to break with convention in his later work, but not to the extent he did as a young master, until the last 10 years of his life. Robert Taylor described “Monet: The Early Years” in the San Jose Mercury News as a “stunning, exuberant show of nearly 60 paintings, a revelation for art lovers who think they’ve already seen everything Monet has to offer… They haven’t seen the radical Monet, the experimental Monet, the artist whose bold, dramatic paintings are in high contrast to the placid, familiar garden settings.” Read more, “Monet, The Early Years Sheds Surprising Light on Painter.”

Shakelford, the curator of the show said, “He was taking what Gustave Courbet had done with realism and pushing it forward. He was using bigger brushstrokes. His seascapes are pretty daring, pretty tough-minded.” Yet Shakelford said as viewers move through the exhibition, “we bring people around to the Monet they expected: lovely, lighter, optimistic.”

Over and over in Monet’s early paintings he not only placed objects and people in the very center of the picture, a supposed composition “no-no,” but he also gave them extra emphasis with line and color, which further accentuated their central prominence in the work. The “imperfect” compositions serve another function as well. Because nature was most often his primary subject, imbalance within the frame helped to convey the imperfections in nature, while also showing how perfect nature is anyway, even in its imperfection, just like Monet’s paintings.

Every painting in “Monet: The Early Years” broke at least one of the rules mentioned here. Some of Monet’s creations broke all of the rules. Monet’s work and that of many of the other impressionists, cubists, modernists and postmodernists are good resources for studying why compositions that break the rules often have more impact than those that conform.

Japanese Bridge, 1899, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

A good number of Monet’s later paintings are also two-thirds or three-quarters sky, or one other element, perhaps a hay field, or a beach. He often split the horizon, placed objects directly in the center or ignored other popular aesthetic preferences. What is going on here? Perhaps if your subject matter and the light on it are depicted well enough, you don’t need the “rules of composition.” That is, if you show other attributes of genius in your work, a dissonance of composition or other departures from standard practice may be possible or even desirable.

Monet Takes Abstraction Further

“Monet: The Late Years,” turned out to be laden with departures as well. The San Francisco Weekly described the show as, “An exhibit of Claude Monet’s final 13 years that included paintings of water lilies that were never publicly viewed during the Impressionist master’s lifetime.” Read more, “The Color of Monet: Get Ready for De Young’s Blockbuster Show.” Monet’s last major metamorphosis came about late in life while he painted his own estate in Giverney, France. With the help of hired gardeners, Monet kept his gardens and water features in idyllic condition. At the same time, his own eyesight began to fade. These factors combined to manifest as greater and greater abstraction in his paintings. He was mourning the death of his second wife, Alice, in 1911 and his son, Jean, in 1914. Cataracts threatened to eliminate his sight completely, just as some of the battles of World War I backed the French army almost up to his doorstep. His paintings became more and more of an escape into an unreal world. The SFist said, “Things get downright psychadelic by the 1920s, when Monet was blind in one eye and had only 10 percent sight left in the other,” in the review, “6 Things to Know Before Going to the deYoung’s ‘Monet: The Late Years’ Exhibit.”

Japanese Bridge, 1899, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

Shakelford, the curator, argued that Monet’s late paintings were nothing less than the beginnings of Modern Art. Abstract artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Ellsworth Kelly cited Monet as an inspiration. Kelly said that Monet’s late work changed him when he saw two of the paintings in Switzerland. Indeed, Monet’s “The Japanese Bridge,” one of his most abstract late paintings came as a loan from Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Basel.

Many of his later paintings, though abstract, remained attractive to collectors because of their pleasing colors, but paintings from Monet’s last decade, made as his eyesight faded, were even more subtle and less striking. They were so subtle, there was no market for them. It took until many years later, after Impressionism took the world by storm, in most cases long after the painters themselves were gone, for some of the more obscure paintings by Monet and the others to be recognized as great and valued with the rest of the Impressionist canon. Unusual compositions in Monet’s early work did not turn off the art establishment nearly as much as the breaking of other conventions in art.

Japanese Bridge, 1918, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

We could deconstruct Monet paintings until the cows come home to eat haystacks, but regardless of the explanations, what he did in his creations worked, even if in some cases, his paintings did not please the sensibilities of the time, they brought a new awareness and eventually changed how people viewed art and how people made art. Rather than characterizing composition as merely another technique, or attainment through a series of formulas, Monet remade it. Likewise in photography, Edward Weston advised aspiring photographers that composition is merely the strongest way of seeing. Adams, Weston and the other members of Group f.64 reinvented photography by eliminating rules, not by adding to them. We don’t learn to be great artists by studying formulas or memorizing techniques, but through deep observation of our subjects, perhaps by seeing them as deeply as Monet did with failing eyesight, or as profoundly as Edward Weston did. Weston said, “To photograph a rock make it look like a rock, but be more than a rock.” We learn from how great artists before us depicted the subjects we wish to depict, even if this means, seeing beyond what is being depicted. This is perhaps why dying people wish to view Monet paintings one last time before they go. There is more in them than we readily see, perhaps a glimpse of the light beyond that Monet himself could see better near the end. We take ideas from great art and try them in our own work and ultimately in our lives. One idea works, another is a flop today, but next month, next year, or someday, perhaps an idea works in a new situation.

Japanese Bridge, 1924, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

Artists whose photography or paintings endure give us a transcendent experience. Walking through “Monet: The Early Years,” my friend Ron and I discussed feeling exhilarated and awakened by the spirit of Monet’s paintings and the force of his creativity. Being in the presence of his artwork, we experienced his psyche and took a bit of it home. I can say without doubt that Monet’s paintings changed me, just as they did Ellsworth Kelly. Seeing any great artist’s creations gathered and isolated to bring out their full impact gives us a metaphysical and tangible experience, a momentary sense of another’s life. We left refreshed and re-energized, determined and full of insight. We were enriched by our exposure to excellence and by seeking it over the rehash of mundane technique.

Golden Decade Students of Ansel Adams Vintage Prints Exhibited at Bolinas Museum

February 22nd, 2020

Golden Decade Students of Ansel Adams Show Vintage Contact Prints for the First Time Ever at the Bolinas Museum

January 25 – March 22, 2020

Apologies for the short notice, but this show is well worth going to if you are going anywhere. At least there will not be a crowd. Use your own judgment and be safe.

Sunken Wrecked Car Body, Tidal Pool, Sausalito, Marin County, California, 1948 by Philip Hyde. This photograph is in the Bolinas Museum show. (Click to enlarge.)

All of Ansel Adams’ students at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, learned to make darkroom silver prints and to fine tune their print enlargements by first printing 5X7 and 4X5 contact prints. Ansel Adams also produced contact prints, as did returning guest luminaries Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, and Imogen Cunningham, as well as lead instructor Minor White and others.

Early students in the photography program, the first of it’s kind to teach creative photography as a profession, included my father Philip Hyde, Pirkle Jones, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson, Bill Heick, Benjamen Chinn, Cameron Macauley, Stan Zrnich, Charles Wong, Ira Latour, and others. Not all of these mentioned are featured in the Bolinas Museum show, but a number of the student’s vintage contact prints in the exhibition have never been shown before. This is largely due to a knowledgeable curator, Jennifer O’Keeffe, who now teaches history of photography at San Francisco Art Institute, presumably in the same department Adams founded.

Contact prints are the closest representation of what the photographer sees, pointed out O’Keefe to the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook. Dad used to say a contact print is the positive image of the original negative with no enlargement. Datebook, SF Gate, rarely writes about art shows, unless the artist is internationally known, historically significant or creates something else unusual. Of all the students at the California School of Fine Arts from the first decade, that is, what is now called the Golden Decade, only about 10 are still living. They are all over 90. There are six still doing well and living in the Bay Area. Philip Hyde passed on in 2006 at age 84. He was born in San Francisco and lived in other Bay Area cities with his family as a boy and on his own including San Rafael, Berkeley, Daily City and elsewhere in Northern California before living out his years in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains in a wilderness home he built.

Hyde teamed up with many other Bay Area conservationists including David Brower, Ken Brower, Ansel Adams, Martin Litton, Dave Bohn, Tris Coffin and photographers Edward Weston, Brett Weston, Cole Weston, Wynn Bullock, William Garnett, Richard Norgaard, Ed Cooper and others to produce the Exhibit Format Series for Sierra Club Books. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series spearheaded many of the campaigns that made our Western national parks. One Bay Area Landmark close to Bolinas on the Marin County Coast is Point Reyes National Seashore. Philip Hyde’s book, Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula with text by Harold Gilliam, landed on the desk of every member of Congress and other Washington leaders, while sales of the second edition raised the funds necessary to buy up the remaining ranches on Point Reyes to keep them out of the hands of developers.

Philip Hyde, in the process of working on wilderness campaigns all over the West often supported local conservation organizations like Friends of the Three Sisters Wilderness in Eugene, Oregon, The Seattle Mountaineers and others, not to mention many national organizations as well, including the Wilderness Society, National Audubon, the Izaak Walton League and many others.

To support grassroots mobilization efforts, Philip Hyde sent his early silver prints, sometimes for display, sometimes as press prints. Over more than 60 years of full-time photography for conservation, he made hundreds of thousands of silver prints total, but this broke down to only about six or less of each image. During photography school, he made two to four contact prints of each photograph he printed. From those he got a sense of what he wanted to emphasize in each photograph when he dodged, burned and worked up larger prints. He usually made 8X10s next, then 10X13s, 11X14s, 16X20s, 20X24s and 40X50s. Fewer and fewer images made the cut to print at the larger and largest sizes. Hyde also had a 10½ foot X 14 foot sink. He made 10X14 foot darkroom silver prints in it for the Oakland Museum Natural Sciences Wing, one of the earliest exhibitions of it’s kind with giant murals behind the displays. The Oakland Museum only this last decade finally replaced these displays.

Philip Hyde has always been known for bringing an artist’s training and sensibilities to documentary photography. Some of his early black and white photographs show the influence of his mentors Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, but as Hyde’s career developed, he became a mentor himself through his books and teaching workshops. Philip Hyde led the first Ansel Adams Color Workshop and many others. His work became a model: lifestyle, methods and images. Many Americans today do not necessarily know Philip Hyde’s name, but they have usually seen his iconic Western landscapes. Hyde’s classic views, which in some cases he either photographed first or popularized the most through his large format nature books, have become bucket list photograph locations for social media adventurers and part of the lexicon for landscape photography.

Many of Hyde’s classmates have attained similar levels of recognition. A number of the names above participated in the famous Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Pirkle Jones, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson, Ira Latour, Bill Heick and others have all had nationally acclaimed shows in major museums and galleries, have published books and been written about by the most eminent magazines and newspapers. After the self-published version of the book, The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts came out in 2010 numerous prominent museums and galleries exhibited the Golden Decade photographers. The shows were popular and well attended. For example, at the Golden Decade Exhibition at Smith Andersen North over 500 people showed up for the opening. More recently after Steidl published the book, there were more gallery and museum shows, as well as book signings with the photographers and editors Ken Ball and Victoria Whyte-Ball, daughter of Don Whyte. See Bolinas Museum Golden Decade Show for more details.

Bolinas Museum

48 Wharf Road
Post Office Box 450
Bolinas, California 94924

415-868-0330

Main Gallery:

THE GOLDEN DECADE: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955

January 25 – March 22, 2020

Museum Hours:
Friday 1 – 5 PM
Saturday 12 – 5 PM
Sunday 12 – 5 PM

Office Hours:
Tuesday – Friday 9 AM – 5 PM

Best Photographs Of 2013

December 23rd, 2013

Best David Leland Hyde Photographs Of 2013

The Year In Review…

Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Near the end of 2012, as I began to wrap up my new Sierra Portfolio, my mind sauntered off on a trail toward crafting a black and white portfolio. Since 2009, every so often I have made images that I thought might convert well to black and white. However, starting in late 2012, after I made a new image folder and began thinking about black and white art, more and more black and white subjects seemed to shown up in my life. (To see any of the photographs larger see my, “Portfolio One,” or “Sierra Portfolio.”

Sundown, Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Sundown, Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

On the morning of January 27, 2013 I woke before daybreak. An eight-inch blanket of heavy fresh snow turned my mountain hideaway into the proverbial winter wonderland. I shifted into high gear, grabbed some food for the road and my camera gear and ran for my 1980 King Cab 4X4 Datsun Pickup, the same truck I learned to drive in the snow when it was new and I was 16 years old. My old truck and I shuffled off down the half-plowed county road looking for adventure and photographs. With the quiet of the snow I slipped quickly into the receptive state of mind described in the blog post, “Imogen Cunningham, Minor White And Their Students On The Art Of Seeing.”

Indian Rhubarb Shoots In Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Indian Rhubarb Shoots In Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Just as I passed the road to Carr Clifton’s house, who was out of the country in Iceland, South America or somewhere else, I looked down toward “the river,” which is what we locally call Indian Creek of Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California.

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The low slanting rays of the sun were just beginning to illuminate the water and surrounding forest in a way I had never seen before. I have driven by that spot thousands of times since age 16, sometimes noticing what the river looked like, sometimes not, eyes glued to the winding country road in all manner of weather and road conditions. Today, in a peaceful, open frame of mind, I quickly pulled over to look closer with the camera out. “Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow” and an SD card full of other images seemed like the type that would make great black and white photographs, but with mist clearing to reveal a rich blue sky reflecting in Indian Creek, they make good color images too.

Storm Clouds Over Boulder III, Boulder, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Storm Clouds Over Boulder III, Boulder, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Even as more black and white suited subjects appeared before me in 2013, more wildly colorful scenes paraded into my vision as well. Lake Almanor, which is known for colorful sunsets, was the stage one evening for a beautiful, yet subtle pastel show. Because it had been partly cloudy in the afternoon, I expected a good sunset, but I was running late. By the time I was in position along the lakeshore, I missed the sunset, but the aftermath after sundown turned out to be even better.

Old Wall And Young Woman, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Old Wall And Young Woman, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

In making the editing cuts on my Sierra Portfolio, It became more clear than ever that I not only loved to photograph water, but apparently the Sierra is the ideal place to do so. To read more about what John Muir called the Range of Light see the blog post, “Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio.” In Colorado, I struggled at first in the Rocky Mountains because everything seemed dry after photographing only in the Sierra for two years. I did manage to find water at Walden Ponds in Boulder County, part of the Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve. Besides, it rained much more than usual in Boulder the whole summer.

Cattails, Willows, Reflections, Walden And Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, Boulder, County, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Cattails, Willows, Reflections, Walden And Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, Boulder, County, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The skies were spectacular with some of the wildest, apocalyptic cloud formations I have ever seen. I made many cloud photographs that I plan to make into a cloud portfolio. Days after I left Boulder, the biggest rainfall on record slammed the Rocky Mountain Front Range and huge floods swamped the cities at the base of the Rockies. Average normal rainfall for the entire month of September is a little over one inch, but during September 11-13, 2013, over 17 inches of rain fell in Boulder County, with over nine inches in one day.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

One rainy afternoon when the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds causing rainbows and dramatic lighting effects, I saw an old grain tower off of a main street in Bloomfield, Colorado. When I approached the old tower building, a group of three ladies were gathered on the train tracks nearby. One lady was feverishly wielding a camera, one was holding a deflector shield and the other made sexy poses on the railroad tracks. I asked if they minded if I made a photograph or two with them as the foreground and they agreed.

Rocky Shoreline, Taylor Lake, Fall, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Rocky Shoreline, Taylor Lake, Fall, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

On my way out of Boulder toward Dinosaur National Monument, I passed through Rocky Mountain National Park, where it rained in the distance forming picturesque early autumn virgas. Besides the black clouds and grayscale mountains, the highlight of my Rocky Mountain National Park visit was a sighting of big horn sheep. About seven or eight of these hoofed giants were grazing and moseying along parallel to Trail Ridge Road.

Signs all along the route say not to stop, but a long line of cars did, to watch the big horn sheep. Because I could not move forward anyway, I quickly reached over and put on my long lens, took the camera off the tripod and abandoned my car mid highway. The group of sheep followed the edge of Glacier Gorge, moving slightly away from the highway and over a knoll topped by jagged angular rock outcroppings. I saw that if I ran forward along the road and stayed low with the knoll between the flock and myself, I could sneak around the rock outcroppings and end up very close to the sheep before they could see me. Besides, up until I made this new plan, all my photographs of the herd of big horns were from behind. I needed some front view images.

Shadow Patterns, Crystal Lake And Indian Valley From Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Shadow Patterns, Crystal Lake And Indian Valley From Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The big male leading the group foiled my plan. As I came partly around the knoll, there he already was, quite close and not looking jovial or friendly. He was not hostile either, just looking his experienced tough old self, keeping a close eye on me. He turned several different ways, as if to pose for the camera, and then wandered on down the slope away from my prying zoom lens.

In Dinosaur National Monument, Randy Fullbright, a local artist and jeweler and gallery owner, took me into Jones Hole. For more on my adventures in Dinosaur from 2013 and other years, see the blog post series, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013.”

After being gone from my home in Northeastern California for three months when I only expected to be gone three weeks, I only had two weeks at home, then I had to rush off to the Bay Area to deliver my father’s vintage prints for the upcoming Photography Gallery show at Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. For the big exhibition, we made contemporary gelatin silver black and white prints. More announcements will come about the show and about the contemporary darkroom prints. Between darkroom printing and the making of new archival digital prints at the Smith Andersen Lab, I stayed in Marin County two weeks and missed nearly all of the fall leaf color back at home in the Sierra.

11.-DHCA-CrysL-259-13-Shadow,-Rock-And-Snow-Patterns,-Crystal-Lake-(Vert)-BW-blog

Shadow, Rock And Snow Patterns At Crystal Lake, (Vertical) California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Once I returned, I did however make a few photography outings, one to Taylor Lake, where the rocky shoreline and fall leaf color reflections made striking subjects. The most appropriate black and white subject of the whole year turned out to be the rocks and melting snow patterns, shadow patterns and granite cliff faces at Crystal Lake earlier this month. We have had such light snowfall this year, that the road that would usually have three to four feet of snow on it by now, is still passable by four wheel drive.

I will save a more in-depth explanation about the last photograph for another blog post. In short, it is the continuation of a direction I began in 2009 because in my own photography I like to go beyond the genre of landscape photography, exploring street photography, abstract photography and experimental approaches. Also, while my father was the conservation photographer, as my work develops professionally I would like to explore social activism more than environmental activism. I also have some ideas and experience with mixed media and multi-media as well. Stay tuned…

Open Door At Blue Minnie's, San Rafael, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Open Door At Blue Minnie’s, San Rafael, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

For more “Best of” see the blog posts, “My Greatest Hits Of 2012,” “Best Photos Of 2011” and “My Favorite Photos of 2010.”

Please share which images you like best and which you like least and why, if you like. It will be helpful…

Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2

June 27th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Part Two of a Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 1.”)

On Personal Style, Book Projects, Photo Editing And Working With Galen Rowell

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Rural Highway Below Mount Shasta, Northern California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(View photograph large: “Mt. Shasta.”)

HYDE: You also said that one important lesson in landscape photography you learned from Galen Rowell had to do primarily with responding to the light.

GARY CRABBE: That lesson originated with Galen Rowell and ever since I’ve become hyper-sensitive and in tune with what the light is doing and what the light is hitting, versus the subject I set out to photograph. Now I say to my student’s, “A boring subject in great light will always make a better photo than a great subject in boring light.” I may have a subject in mind, but if I see the light happening somewhere else, I am willing at a moment’s notice to drop any preconceived idea.

HYDE: That flexibility strikes me as not only the similarity between you and Galen Rowell, but also between Galen Rowell and my father, Philip Hyde. Many landscape photographers have this philosophy that they go out, scout out a location, then literally set up camp and wait for the right light, sometimes for as long as several days. My dad never did that. He would photograph in the middle of the day rather than wait. Part of it had to do with limitations of budget and time. He had to cover certain territory because he had his itinerary planned. He had obligations. He was often on assignment and someone else was paying his expenses. Certain landscape photographers like Jack Dykinga, for example, take the exact opposite approach. Jack Dykinga is sometimes on a loose assignment from a group like the iLCP, International League of Conservation Photographers. He may be setting the direction and parameters of the assignment, maybe he picks his own. He’ll wait days for the right light or weather conditions. Do you do that?

GARY CRABBE: No, I wish I could. I know a friend who does and he returns with some gorgeous images. He also has the patience to wait for something better. I don’t get it. (Laughter) I make the best of what I can because I can’t wait with my book projects. Plus I’m also a stay at home Dad. I’m the one that drops my kids off at school and picks them up in the afternoon. When I’m out photographing, I have to turn tail and get back. My time is limited. I did double back one time on my way to Lava Beds National Monument up in Northern California on my last book project. I cut from Weed over to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and then on to Lava Beds. I looked in my rear view mirror and said, “Wow, there’s a great shot of Mount Shasta,” making a note to come back for sunrise. I circled around through Alturas into Susanville, back over to Lassen Volcanic National Park and then up again toward Mt. Shasta, making a 500 mile loop. I can’t recall many occasions where I’ve made that choice, but it was my time to make something work. That’s why I’m here.

HYDE: So looping back 500 miles was more the exception than the rule for you?

GARY CRABBE: Absolutely, and it was one nice sunrise morning. Sure, I could have said, “I wanted more clouds in the sky, or the moon setting,” but I didn’t have the luxury to do that. In that regard I’m more of an editorial photojournalist. I’m out there to document the place. I need to get this, this, this and this for my book project. I work myself to max out a set schedule. Landscape photography art does not always happen like it did at Lava Beds National Monument. Two mornings later I also shot a wonderful sunrise in Susanville, but, the morning in between was crap. (Laughter) Nothing came out. It wasn’t the right weather. I couldn’t just stay there and hope that the next day was going to get better and miss all the other photographs I needed. In that regard, it sounds trite, but it’s a job. My work dictates my schedule and then my creative instincts guide what I do within the confines of that schedule. I just spent two days in Yosemite National Park. I had to get Vernal Falls for my next book project, Where to Photograph in Northern California. I’ve rarely ever tried to take, for lack of a better word, cheesy, iconic photos like the rainbow and Vernal Falls. But it’s the kind of photograph that provides the reason to go up to Yosemite National Park and face the crowds. It’s ironic to dread Yosemite Valley, but that’s summertime. In the text I’ll explain that to photograph the rainbow your best chance of seeing it is at ‘this time’ and ‘this time.’ Sure, my photograph was of Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail, but I am always happier as in this case when I came back with my own personal vision of the scene as opposed to the same image that has been on a post card for the last 35 years in every gift shop in Yosemite National Park.

HYDE: Speaking of waterfalls, I really like your “Sunlight on Berry Creek Falls.” You know my dad made a well-known photograph of Berry Creek Falls. Your photograph makes it look even more picturesque now. Berry Creek is a really nice waterfall. The way you framed it, that’s one of the best waterfall photographs I’ve ever seen.

GARY CRABBE: Wow, I’m beyond flattered. I just wrote about it. I put up an article at a place called Pro Photo Resource. It was called, “Seeking Out Definitive Moments In Outdoor, Nature And Travel Photography.” Berry Creek Falls was one of my examples.

HYDE: I want to talk to you about each of your book projects, maybe a spattering of what was interesting about each project. It’s important for people to know that you have illustrated six coffee table books. Also, there is one more question about your experience with Galen and Barbara Rowell that I want to ask you. It is personal to me because of my process working with my father’s photographs. Carr Clifton helped me all along in choosing images and many other people helped too, various gallery owners and other experts. I had consulting work by Ryan Baldwin, who at one point ran Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery in Emeryville. Did you work there when he did?

GARY CRABBE: Yes. I know him very well.

HYDE: OK. He actually did a little consulting with me in the very beginning when I really didn’t know anything about anything. He helped me start choosing images. I feel like my vision and my ability to choose photographs grew exponentially over the years since then. Ryan Baldwin’s good advice was to choose images of my dad’s at first that no other photographer could have done. He suggested that later I could mix in some that my dad did first and everybody else has done since. My question to you is, in managing Galen Rowell’s stock department of 300,000 images, you must have learned a lot about photo selection from Galen and also from editors. You stepped into it with no idea of what makes a good photograph. Tell me a little about your learning curve, what was that like?

Stormy Sunrise Over Lava Beds National Monument, Siskiyou County, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(View the photograph large: “Lava Beds.”)

GARY CRABBE: Interesting question. I feel bad that at one point I fibbed to Galen, some people might call it a lie. I was so green, that when I first started working at Mountain Light and he asked me, “You know what a dupe is, right?” I said, “Sure.” (Laughter) I asked another employee later, “What is a dupe?” He said, “Oh, you know, a duplicate slide.” “Oh yeah,” I said. That’s how green I was. First I learned the basic technical points of what editors need. For a magazine cover, you need to have some negative space where your text can go, your subject needs to be centered in this area, you need to have space at the bottom of the frame where they can add the mailing label and bar code and so on. When you’re selecting a double page spread, be sure the most important part of the subject is not in the middle of the frame where the seam of the paper goes. I would go through slides and pull out what I thought might be appropriate and Galen would tell me what was good for what reason, “Yes this is good, this is good, no this one wouldn’t work.” Galen obviously had his own preferences. As part of the interview process, we started having people do light test submissions. You were put in a situation where an editor called you from National Audubon or National Wildlife Federation and you needed to send 20 images of polar bears or penguins. We would give the applicant the entire penguin folder or the entire polar bear folder and we’d see what they would choose to send. It was a great litmus test to see how people responded to what a photo editor wanted and how they responded to Galen’s images as well. Over time I got to where I could usually look at a sheet of 20 slides in approximately one second and know whether there were any images on that page worth taking a second look at for any given project. We’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of images. For example: you know you need a shot of the Marin County Coast. Galen didn’t have separate organized folders other than every shot from Marin County going into one folder. So I’d be looking at images of Point Reyes next to Mount Tamalpais next to Bolinas next to Fairfax, somewhere in that jumble of 35 mm frames was the photograph you needed. It always seemed that there was one or two images that would stand out. Those were the ones I found where the story and the light came together in the best way possible. That’s what I use to guide the editing of my own images. (For more about how Gary Crabbe edits photographs see his post on Jim M. Goldstein’s Blog, “Pro Tips: Photo Editing With Gary Crabbe.”) You want the viewer to instantly know what your photograph is about, if there is confusion, you’ve lost them. If something in the composition creates an emotional or bio-physiological hiccup, you’ve lost them. And this is what I said in this recent article I wrote is, you want every photograph you take to be a headline and an exclamation point for whatever you are photographing. You want the story to come across that quick, with no ambiguity whatsoever.

HYDE: Of course that is for editorial stock photography, but to play devil’s advocate, Paul Strand and my father even, at times, made images that when you look at them at first you have no idea what you are looking at, you can’t figure out what it is. (Find out more about the history of abstract photography and Paul Strand in the blog post, “Straight Photography And Abstraction.”)

GARY CRABBE: That’s true. That is where art photography is different. I love doing abstract photography myself, but that wasn’t the sort of work that Galen did. I used to judge local camera clubs. And they’d have a category that was called “Contemporary,” which meant it had to be some kind of abstract or manipulated photo. I would stand in front of 30 or 40 amateur photographers and say, “The faster I can figure out what you did the less I like it.”

HYDE: But it’s the opposite for magazine submissions or other types of stock photography, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, but you are still trying to generate instant emotional impact, even from an abstract. You are trying to create some kind of subconscious emotional reaction. You don’t have to know what it’s about, but you need to know how it feels. And that’s where art becomes personal and subjective. Some people say, “That doesn’t do anything for me.” Others say, “I could spend a week looking at all the detail in that photograph.” All you can do as an artist is put out what you find interesting.

HYDE: When you first started working for Galen Rowell, your article said something like you had seen only two photography exhibitions, but was there an educational process for learning about the work of other landscape photographers?

GARY CRABBE: Looking through photography magazines, who pays attention to photographer credit lines? Other photographers. That’s how you learn. Every time I saw an image that made me say, “Wow,” I noticed the name. I began to recognize the names Galen’s work was published with right up through the evolution of outdoor photography. I certainly have developed my own personal preferences for the sort of work I like seeing.

HYDE: I’d like to hear how each of your book projects came about.  So how did Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures published in 2001, which won Book of the Year 2002 from the California Outdoor Travel Writers Association, how did that book come about?

GARY CRABBE: Way back when, trying to get your work in front of people, you would buy these source book ads and they would be like $1000 or $2000 a page. And the publisher would send these big books out to all the advertising agencies and publishers and whatever. I went into one of those books my first year as an independent photographer. One of the images I put in was of a twisting road below the Grand Tetons. One day a publisher sent me a note, “Do you have more good road shots like that? We’re doing a book called, ‘The Back Roads of Northern California.’ We would like you to submit some photographs for the cover.” They already had the whole book photographed and written, they were just looking for a different cover. They went through my submission and they didn’t choose any of my photographs. They went with a photo by the photographer for the book, but the quality of the images I submitted stuck in their mind. From that one failed submission, when a well-published travel writer approached them to do a book on the California Coast, they asked, “We need a photographer for this project, are you interested?” That’s how it started. Voyager Press has been the publisher for five out of my six published books.

HYDE: So were Our San Francisco and Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra, similar books?

GARY CRABBE: All of them except for Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra, that’s the one that was published by a different publisher as its own stand-alone project. The editor for that book was Peter Beren, the foremost publisher for Sierra Club books. Peter knew me from Mountain Light. I worked with him as kind of a liaison. I had also done some freelance projects for him as a photo editor. I remember this vividly, it was my daughter’s first birthday, a Saturday afternoon, the house was packed with friends and relatives. My office phone rang. I was thinking I’m not going to bother answering. The phone rang once, twice, a third time, “Oh I can’t stand it.” I raced back to my office as fast as I could go, grabbed the phone, and I hear, “Gary, this is Peter Beren. You’ve got a bunch of Yosemite images, right?” I said, “Hi Peter, yeah.” “Great. I’m going to recommend your photos for a book project.” “OK, thanks.” “Alright, bye.” That was the entire extent of the conversation. A couple weeks later, the publisher called me from her office in New York, “Can you have images to us by next Wednesday?” “Sure.” I never needed to take another picture for that book. Every image came from my existing slides. I sent them 300. They did a beautiful job. Unfortunately the book is out of print now, but I remember approving all the color proofs. On their third or fourth go around, I said it was great, but they still went two more rounds with some of the images. They did an impeccable job with the printing. Peter did the editing of the book. He gathered quotes from Ansel Adams, John Muir and others, which they matched up with my images and boom, the book was done that fast.

Continued in the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 3.”